Brewster in Black and White
Introduction to the Collection
In the fall of 1970 Beulah Doane gifted to The Brewster Historical Society her son Donald Doane’s collection of over 400 turn-of-the-century photographic glass plate negatives. It remains a mystery how this collection, reported to be that of Caro A. Dugan, found its way into Donald Doane’s keeping, but it was to Brewster’s great good fortune that it did so. The Society did its best to pick up where Mr. Doane left off, protecting and preserving the “Caro A. Dugan Collection,” as it was called, using whatever tools were available to us at the time, but not until recent years has the technology been in place to allow us to do more than simply protect and preserve. For the first time, the digital age has allowed us to create electronic images from the glass plates and make them available to an audience worldwide.
The images in the Caro A. Dugan Collection are predominantly of Brewster, and as near as we can determine, date from 1887 to 1914. Unfortunately, only some of the images were tagged with a photographer’s name -- in many cases the photographer is listed as Caro A. Dugan; in others it is listed as Cornelius Chenery, a photographer who boarded with the Dugan family in their ancestral home, the Elijah Cobb house on Lower Road. Mr. Chenery’s will states: "I have destroyed the bulk of my negatives. A few have been retained . . . These I have asked Miss Dugan to dispose of as she desires after my death. Cape negatives have been sent to Brewster.” To complicate matters further, there appears to have been a student-teacher relationship (and according to family oral tradition, a romantic one as well) between the two photographers; Ms. Dugan has replicated some of Mr. Chenery’s photographs so that we occasionally possess two plates – one by each artist – of the same scene. Because proper artistic credit of some of these images has therefore been left in question, where no specific tag exists, we have decided to lay any best guesses aside and label those images “photographer unknown.”
Due to cost limitations, we have been forced to restrict this online exhibit to forty-five images; matted images of what you see here are available for sale online, and a selection is available in the museum gift shop, where the remaining images in the collection may be viewed via a digital viewer. As you view the images here and in the viewer please note that they appear in their “archival” state, that is, essentially unedited. When you order a print online or purchase one from the museum gift shop, any major flaws (cloudiness, or glass plate “burn,” speckles, etc.) will have been edited out by the talented Mr. Korn of Bob Korn Imaging.
Assistance with this project came from a number of places. Community support in the form of a Community Preservation Act grant enabled us to secure the funds to preserve and digitize these images; an Eddy Foundation grant allowed us to mount the online exhibit. Curator Suzanne Foster administered the ultimate kid-glove care to the collection to prepare it for preservation and cataloging. We could not have received better advice than that which we received from Tamsen Cornell, Director of Orleans Historical Society (www.orleanshistoricalsociety.org). Carol Appleton of Appleton Interiors provided invaluable assistance with image and series selection. Mr. Chenery’s relatives, Alys and Raymon Walker, provided a wealth of information on the photographer, and Brewster Ladies Library generously shared the diaries and other information in their possession among the Caro A. Dugan Papers. Bob Korn of Bob Korn Imaging (www.bobkornimaging.com) assisted with the digitization of the glass plates; not only was his knowledge and expertise outstanding, his generosity and patience with our endless questions and concerns was and continues to be a true comfort.
Finally, we at Brewster Historical Society are grateful to the photographers for leaving behind such stunning images, and to Donald and Beulah Doane for recognizing their importance. If it were not for their combined efforts, we might well have missed out on this opportunity to visit Brewster at the turn of the century, or perhaps more importantly, to glimpse how we might shape our future going into the next one. We think all who went before would be pleased and proud to see these images preserved and made accessible to the public at last. We know we are pleased and proud to bring this exhibit to you and hope that you find it edifying and enjoyable.
Sally Gunning, Exhibit Coordinator
Teresa Lamperti, Archivist
Cornelius Chenery was born April 26, 1844 in West Roxbury, Massachusetts, the son of John and August A (Whittemore) Chenery. In 1862 he enlisted to fight in the Civil War and was mustered out in 1863. In 1867 he enrolled in Harvard University, the class of 1871, but dropped out his junior year. In 1870 he married the thirty-three year-old Mary Fuller; he was at that time a music teacher in Boston. A daughter, Blanche, was born to the couple in 1872; she died in 1877. In 1873 Mr. Chenery joined the Young Men’s Christian Union, a club formed by Harvard students in 1851 as a religious study group; he was a member of their camera club until he died. The Harvard Commentary reported him employed for twelve years as a choir master and leader of choral societies, appearing many times on the concert stage. The Commentary also recounts two different trips to Europe for study, in 1884 and 1890, but in between, in 1888, he visited Brewster, boarding with the Dugans. (That same summer the eight-year-old Helen Keller and her teacher Anne Sullivan were also staying in Brewster, and Mr. Chenery took the now famous photograph of the little girl with her doll). We don’t know how many return trips Mr. Chenery made to Brewster, but we do know he took photographs there in 1891, 1910, and 1912. According to Chenery family accounts a romantic relationship developed between the two photographers, and the bequest to Ms. Dugan of his photographic plates and other personal items would certainly indicate a strong connection of some kind. The 1900 census lists Mr. Chenery as divorced and living with his brother in Boston.
The Harvard Commentary sums up Mr. Chenery’s contribution to the visual arts with this understatement: “[He] was a member of the Camera Club of Boston, and devoted considerable attention to photography.” Mr. Chenery died in 1920 following complications from an injury sustained in an accident.
Caroline Atherton Dugan was born March 26, 1853, to James and Helen (Cobb) Dugan, in Brewster, Massachusetts, in the home built by Ms. Dugan’s great grandfather, the renowned shipmaster Elijah Cobb. (This house still sits, looking much as it did 100 years ago, at 739 Lower Road). Ms. Dugan’s father died when she was still a child, and her mother began to take in summer boarders to augment her income. In 1888 Cornelius Chenery arrived with the Parks family to board with the Dugans; this was not his only visit to Brewster, and evidence exists in the glass plates left behind that at the very least a close student/teacher relationship existed between them, if not a relationship of another kind. Ms. Dugan kept a lively and colorful diary that recounts her life during the years 1873 to 1878, but the record grows sparse once the diaries were put aside. We do know she trained as a kindergarten teacher but did not continue in that field. We also know that after the death of her mother, Ms. Dugan left Cape Cod. The 1900 census records list her as living in Brookline, Massachusetts, serving as governess to the five children of Henry and Margaret Whitney (Mr. Chenery was also in Boston at this time). Josephine Whitney Duveneck, Ms. Dugan’s former charge, wrote in her autobiography, Life at Two Levels, that “Miss Dugan” was with the Whitney family for twenty-five years, excluding two months each summer when she returned to Cape Cod. Mrs. Duveneck stated that Ms. Dugan was the most important person in her life during her formative years, “as teacher, companion and friend.” She indicated that sometimes Ms. Dugan lived with the family but at other times rented an outside room and came in by day. “She called me ‘Childie,'” Mrs. Duveneck wrote. “I was her child, but not her child . . . After twenty-five years of devoted service and close ties were broken, it must have been a devastating termination. Luckily she owned her old family mansion on Cape Cod, a beautiful colonial house which provided not only a home but a pond, a pine grove and a strip of beach. She had paying guests to augment her income, took beautiful photographs and helped organize the ‘Brewster Ladies Library.’ Years later, during the depression, my husband made it possible for her to retain the property.”
In 1938 Ms. Dugan deeded her home to Mrs. Duveneck. She died on her 88th birthday in 1941, but her photographic plate collection wasn’t the only creative legacy she left behind. She published a collection of plays entitled The King’s Jester, and her diary, currently in the possession of Brewster Ladies Library, captures Brewster in words just as lovingly as Ms. Dugan captured it in her glass plates. She writes in a February 3, 1877 diary entry: “I coaxed mother up to the [widow’s walk] to see the morning glory. The Bay was heaped with great cakes of snowy, beautiful ice . . . and across the wet roofs of the village drifted the gray mist of smoke born of snow and sunshine . . . It was hard to leave the house top and come down into the busy Saturday morning.”